Growing Milwaukee Through the Arts
UWM’s Peck School connects students, professionals
â€śThatâ€™s exactly what weâ€™re trying to do,â€ť answers Wade
Hobgood, dean of the Peck
School of the Arts at
UW-Milwaukee. Now in his third year here, heâ€™s looking for structures and
opportunities to help Milwaukee and Wisconsin shape a new
self-image in which the arts play a major role.
â€śWe want to hold hands with anyone who shares that
vision,â€ť Hobgood says.
He pointed to the Cultural Alliance of Greater
Milwaukee, among others, and noted that the Milwaukee 7 initiative of the Greater
Milwaukee Committee calls cultural innovation a priority for economic growth in
â€śGreat engineers have backgrounds in music,â€ť Hobgood
notes. â€śGreat salesmen have theater training. Research shows that theater students are
better read, more inclusive, good at improvisationâ€”skills that canâ€™t be
developed by studying math. We are figuring out ways to form collaborations between our students and
students in other fields, so they all develop all the skill sets.
â€śThe universityâ€™s mission is to enable every student
to graduate with skills in creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship; thatâ€™s
the heart of our training programs,â€ť he adds. â€śOur students focus not only on their craft,
but on new ways it can be put to use in the community.â€ť
â€śWe are at all the tables, looking for ways to make
life better for both art and non-art organizations,â€ť says Ellen Friebert
Schupper, Peckâ€™s director of marketing and community relations. â€śBut more than
that, we are committed to the development of our students, the artists of the
future. Our roles are to support, lead and feed the pipeline.â€ť
Student, Community Collaboration
The Peck School of the Arts includes five departments plus the
Inova art gallery, and has spread from the main campus to the Kenilworth center
on Milwaukeeâ€™s East Side.
Itâ€™s the largest art school in the region and the only comprehensive arts
program in Wisconsin.
Nearly 150 theater, dance, film and music performances and visual art exhibits
are offered to the public annually.
Collaboration is key. A stellar dance faculty creates
important works with Wild Space, Milwaukee Ballet, Danceworks, Theatre Gigante,
Your Mother Dances and Ko-Thi, and connects students with these companies. The
Theatre Department mentored Youngblood Theatre into existence and teamed with
Milwaukee Chamber Theatre to provide students with major roles in a
professional production. Music and theater faculty and students created a delightful musical
documentary on a slice of Wisconsin music
industry history last year. This year Joseph Hanreddy, former artistic director of the Milwaukee
Rep, teams with the cityâ€™s favorite theater designer, Rick Graham, in a theater
fellowship program. Theyâ€™ll
host weekly meetings with students and local professionals.
Members of the music faculty perform with the
Milwaukee Symphony and the Peck
Schoolâ€™s Chamber Music
Milwaukee. The schoolâ€™s â€śUnruly Musicâ€ť series offers extreme contemporary music
at Vogel Hall. UWMâ€™s Fine
Arts Quartet will celebrate its 65th season with eight free concerts for the
town, and lecturer Martin Jack Rosenblum has developed an innovative program
for studying rock â€™nâ€™ roll and American vernacular music. The Film Department
sponsors the LGBT Film Festival and other screenings, and its â€śdocUWMâ€ť lets
students make documentary films for community nonprofits.Students also
work with the Riverside/Pabst/Turner Hall group to document visits to Milwaukee
by professional bands for use on music websites and in promotional materials.
The Art & Design Departmentâ€™s research institute
houses projects that use the arts as tools in non-art community projects. For
example, students created a DVD on post-surgical recovery with instructions
from doctors and therapists regarding what to do at home. Peck School students
are the actors, writers, designers, filmmakers and technicians. The UWM nursing
school measured outcomes. Another project involved released prisoners. The
department also presented an exhilarating, three-story exhibit of experimental
visual art, media technology, music and performance by students last spring. It was
packed with excited young people.
Art is always changing in response to circumstances, and we need its visionary powers most when things turn dire. The loss of art classes in lower education is a tragedy because the artist in each of us is only developed through exercise. The Peck Schoolâ€™s wide-ranging effort to weave the arts more fully into the fabric of daily community life, while training committed young artists to respond to the needs of the times, steers our city toward a better future for all.